Слово в неделю 29-ю, Лк. зач. 85-е

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit

Today we heard the Gospel reading about how the Lord cleansed ten lepers. They were cleansed while going to shew themselves to the priests, who were to examine them to certify that they were cleansed, as the Law required. Only then could they reenter society. From the ten only one returned to give thanks to the Lord; and the Lord praised him, Thy faith hath made thee whole, and reproached the others, Were there not ten cleansed, where are the nine? Moreover, the one who returned to give thanks was a Samaritan.

This Gospel reading is part of a thanksgiving service. The Samaritan's thankfulness is an example for us. Like him, we must be thankful for every instance of God's mercy to us.

Saint Isaac of Syria said, there is no gift which is not augmented save that which remains without acknowledgement (from Homily 2).(1) The idea here is that thankfulness increases God's mercy on us. If we want to continuously experience God's mercy, then we must always express our gratitude to God.

Our gratitude can be expressed as part of a prayer of thanksgiving, but even more so through a special church rite, the public prayer service (or moleben) of thanksgiving, because a prayer will always be stronger with several people taking part. Furthermore, every divine service is to some degree an expression of gratitude. The highest expression of our gratitude not only with regard to specific instances but in our lives in general is serving or participating in the Divine Liturgy. The mystery of the Eucharist is celebrated during the Liturgy. Eucharist is a Greek word meaning thanksgiving. At the Liturgy we celebrate the mystery of thanksgiving for the expiation of our sins and deliverance from eternal death by the Lord Jesus Christ. The Liturgy is the reenactment of Christ's great sacrifice together with our gratitude for it. The person who rarely attends the Liturgy declines participation in a great Thanksgiving to God.

But is expressing our gratitude through prayer alone enough? No, it's not. By allowing us to encounter some danger and then delivering us from it, the Lord wishes to remind us of the inconstancy and transience of our earthly life and cause us to reflect on the everlasting. Therefore, it is a reminder, a summons to repentance and correction. If we limit ourselves only to prayerful gratitude without bothering to correct our lives, then our gratitude will be incomplete, and in this case we will remain ungrateful. Our thankfulness must not be just prayerful, but also be expressed through correction in our lives. Faith without works is dead, said the Holy Apostle James (2, 26). Thus thankfulness without correction in our lives is not enough.

In thinking about how we are tested by God as a summons to correction, a summons to reconsider our past life, a summons to reflect on the life to come, we must thank God not only when he delivers us from misfortune, but also when he allows us to experience misfortune. In this sense, Job the Long-suffering's attitude to misfortune is instructive. Upon hearing of the loss of his enormous fortune, he said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; (as it seemed good to the Lord, so also it came to pass), blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1, 21). And when his wife, upon seeing these misfortunes visited on the righteous Job, said to him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God, and die, he answered her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? This is an example of the proper attitude to misfortunes. This example is from the Old Testament. But we have examples of similar attitudes towards misfortunes from the Christian era. St. John Chrysostom was unjustly exiled to the city of Kukuz on the periphery of the Byzantine Empire. He never got there. Driven by cruel soldiers and subjected to harsh conditions on the road, he fell ill and died with the words, Thank God for everything.

There are four types of prayer: prayers of supplication, repentance, thanksgiving, and praise. Praise is the highest category of prayer. When we express our thankfulness for deliverance from this or that misfortune, we are also expressing our own self-interest. But when we praise God in our misfortunes this is the highest category of prayer, because here is the expression of our disinterested love of God, our trust in God that he will never send anything bad to his servants.

Praise and thanksgiving always express joyous feelings. Thus the Apostle Paul instructs Christians, Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ concerning you (1 Thessalonians 5, 16-18).

Therefore, let us always be thankful, as the Apostle exhorts us, and not just when we receive good things from God, but also when we are sent hardships and misfortunes for our edification and for our correction.

Let us remember that the highest form of thankful prayer is participation in the Liturgy; and that the highest form of gratitude in life is the correction of our lives.

Amen.

1.    A. J. Wensinck, Mystic Treatises of Isaac of Nineveh, Verhandelingen der Kon. Akademie van Wetenschappen te Amsterdam, Afd. Letter-kunde Nieuwe Greeks, XXIII 1, Amsterdam, 1929.